The veganic threat to society

As Veganuary begins the UK’s national media is in turmoil over veganism!

Are vegans weak “snowflakes” or dangerous militants? Maybe we’re both – maybe we’re militant snowflakes causing an avalanche of devastation om the heads of those involved in the meat industry – or maybe we’re just people who don’t eat animal products.

The truth is we’re all of these things – and more.

Today’s blog is brought to you by a Daily Mail headline – I’m not proud of it, but it comes in response to a programme about us on British television this week!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6539063/Counter-terror-police-brought-help-tackle-militant-VEGANS.html?fbclid=IwAR0ITqlKis70HKKPI8zXM9rphAC1hAv_hp9bV9B-6iZ12Ygq5j_czD8b0TI

Yes, we’re such a threat with our “grass-eating” ways, that they’re dedicating whole television shows to how we could bring down meat-eating society as we know it.

Of course, the truth is we’re upsetting the status quo. Yep, we’re veganing all over the world – our products are filling supermarket shelves, our adverts are screaming loud and proud from billboards and celebrities are lining up to love us or hate us – we even have our own vegan band staring Moby, Miley Cyrus, a couple of Def Leppard, Brian Adams  and Rob Zombie – it sounds very odd indeed – but so does the concept of militant snowflakes bringing down consumerism as we know it, so it kind of fits.

The irony is that as one industry receives a captive bolt gun to the head, another rises from the organic soil of compassion – yes, consumerism is getting behind veganism as companies cling to the rolling meat-free bandwagon for fear of missing the ethical train in their bid to make their company as green as possible – or to make it look as green as possible.

Of course, vegans are passionate people – some of us even demonstrate – shock horror – and we express our opinions on social media too – some vegans are even militant enough to write a blog – imagine that!

Coincidentally, it’s the start of Veganuary this week – or is that a coincidence at all? I doubt it. As somebody signs up to go vegan for a month every eight seconds, the vegan success story is seriously worrying the meat and dairy lobbies it seems – how dare people lead a revolution based on compassion? How dare they change the way we think?

It’s easier for elements of the Media to concentrate on what they perceive as negative elements of veganism – while forgetting the scenes of animal abuse which come from the UK every day – scenes from inside slaughterhouses and dairy farms – you know, the status quo they are trying to protect….

This is just my way of saying happy Veganuary, and if you haven’t already, give an animal-free diet a go, it’s easier than you think….

https://veganuary.com/

Let’s go (coco) nuts for vegan cheese

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I remember when Sainsbury’s launched their range of vegan cheeses

(reviewed here – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ ) that they were marketed as being based around coconut oil, so it’s only natural that Koko – a company specialising in a coconut milk alternative – should launch their own “cheese”.

The two new offerings – a cheddar alternative and a soft/cream cheese are available in Waitrose’s new dedicated vegan section – it’s all on special offer at the time of writing – so get in there quick!

Coconut is healthy and, of course, cruelty-free, so seeing more products swell the continuously growing vegan market is great – and a dedicated vegan section in a mainstream supermarket – well, that’s just wow!

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The soft cheese is indeed very soft – which means it spreads with ease without tearing up your bread. There is a coconut smell around both products. This should have come as no surprise really, but it does distract a little from the savoury nature of the food on offer.

However, once spread, there seems to be no coconut taste at all – or any taste really.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s a little bland for my palate. It isn’t horrible, and it goes quite well on toast – it just lacks that “wow my taste buds are having a party in my mouth” factor.

I can imagine it’s a good way to jazz up a jacket spud or add to a pasta dish. As it is, I prefer the Tesco spreadable cheeses on my toast in the morning.

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The cheddar though is a different story.

At last, a vegan “cheese” that doesn’t come in a plastic coffin – full marks to Koko for this most basic of packaging success (the soft cheese comes in a recyclable pot too) and it also helps with actually getting at the product and storing it for future use – if you haven’t devoured the block in one gulp anyway.

It also slices easily. It doesn’t crumble in a frustrating manner like many vegan cheeses, but it slices effortlessly – ten out of ten for that too Koko.

Taste-wise, there is an air of coconut around this one, but there’s a noticeably stronger taste than many of its competitors and, dare I say, it has more of a “cheddary” taste about it (how I would imagine cheddar to taste anyway). In other words, it has a nice strength. It has a distinctive flavour, something other cheeses usually only achieve by flavouring the product with chilli, caramelised onion etc.

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It isn’t a “knock you out” wow taste, but it is nice and distinctive. It also possesses a nice creamy texture. It isn’t too hard, not too soft and it works perfectly in a cheese and tomato roll.

But the big question is: Does it melt?

In a word, yes.

Although it appears to “split” a little when grilled, it does melt properly and, in doing so, the flavour is really pushed to the fore. The slight coconut smell is still there, but, for me, it’s the perfect vegan cheese on toast.

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So, how much does it cost?

Well, normally the cheddar is £2.29 for a 200g pack and the cream cheese £1.99 for a 150g pot.

https://www.kokodairyfree.com/

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Vegan Star Wars – the animal rights messages in The Last Jedi

Warning: Contains spoilers!

There a couple of strong animal rights messages in Star Wars: The Last Jedi – this is in addition to the new Viva ad being shown before the showing I attended.

Luke Skywalk shoving a beaker into the breasts of a dinosaur-like creature and gulping down its milk had many in the audience gasping. It’s not a huge leap to realise that this is the reality of milk – one species, stealing the breast milk of another species – milk meant for the babies of said other species.

The docile-looking creature in the Last Jedi certainly looked as if she was pregnant – and Rey reacted with distaste – as many people do when presented with the realities of the dairy industry. Animals are, of course, forcibly made pregnant in order to produce milk for us. Luke’s taking of a wild creature’s milk, directly from her mammary glands, produces a revulsion we should all feel at the taking of a mother cow’s milk directly from her udders – after all, that’s what we’re drinking – it’s just that a machine is stealing it from her.

Then we had Chewbacca coming face-to-face with a porg as he is about to tuck into what looks like a roasted porg. The cute little creatures mirror our reactions to the thought of eating dog or cat – when they are no different to cows or pigs – the latter two are certainly as intelligent as domesticated animals.

Chewie is surrounded by dozens of sad-eyes porgs as he can’t bring himself to chow down on his victim – this creature had a family and friends – it lived and is now dead. Chewie is hungry, but their eyes and reaction of the porgs convey a strong message to the audience.

Further on in the film, we have a strong liberation message in a thinly-veiled horse racing metaphor.

The fathers, are bet on in a Vegas-style setting and forced to race. These horse-like creatures are seen thundering around a greyhound stadium style track. But they are liberated by rebel heroes as a distraction – brilliant!

Again, it’s the audience reaction which is important – and their realisation that living animals are forced to race for human entertainment – while being held captive away from their friends and family.

Simple vegan mac cheese recipes that will stop you missing dairy

“But cheese” is something I hear more than “but bacon” if I’m honest.

And I have to admit, I am a huge pasta fan, and vegan macaroni ‘cheese’ is one of my favourite dishes.

There are numerous recipes for making this stodgy delight, and, I have found a recipe I like, so I stick with that. I am going to share that, and a previous recipe, one I revert back to every now and again – because it has a chilli hit, and I like chilli hits.

You can even buy some vegan “cheese” sauces now (this one is pretty good – https://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/7866/cheese-sauce ), and they work well – just pour over the pasta – you can do cauliflower “cheese” in the same way – by just replacing the pasta with the cauliflower.

I do like to sprinkle paprika on top of the mac ‘cheese’ or cauliflower ‘cheese’ when I’m done – and you can crisp it up under the grill if you so wish. Either way, I think it is the perfect winter comfort food.

Anyway, this recipe was passed onto me on Facebook a long time ago, so I’ve no idea where it originated:

 

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Ingredients

  • A pan load of pasta  – around 250g
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 teacup of diced carrot
  • Approx 25 cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil (vegetable will do – but don’t use too much either way)
  • Salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ small onion
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Tomato – sliced (optional)

 

Method

Cook the pasta

Cut up the potatoes and cook with the carrots

Dice the onion and garlic

Blend the cashew nuts

Add the cooked potatoes and carrots and gradually blend into the nuts

Add oil, onion, garlic, salt and lemon juice

Blend again.

Add a little water, if necessary.

Blend again.

Mix the “cheese” with the pasta and either serve or pop in the oven or under the grill to brown for 10 to 20 minutes. You can sprinkle with paprika and pop sliced tomatoes on top before putting in the oven if you wish.

Serve. This is really nice with ketchup too.

 

The second one comes from a Peta booklet I received. It’s based on nutritional yeast – which people either love or hate – but which does have a cheesy taste and is loaded with vitamins.

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg macaroni (any pasta will do)
  • 125g soya marg
  • 100g flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 50ml oil
  • 75g nutritional yeast flakes
  • 125g broccoli florets – steamed
  • 40g diced green chilis

Serves 4

 

Method

Cook the pasta (maybe use the water as the boiling water part).

Melt the marg in a saucepan on a low heat and whisk in the flour – whisk until smooth and bubbling.

Stir in the boiling water.

Add salt, soy sauce, garlic and turmeric.

Cook until sauce thickens.

Whip in the oil and nutritional yeast flakes.

Mix sauce with pasta and put in an oven-proof dish.

Mix in broccoli and chilis.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350F/180C

 

The latter one is a bit fat-heavy but more savoury – the sauce isn’t at all creamy like the first one either – it all depends on what you’re in the mood for that day.

If you have any alternative recipes, please post them in the comments – I love trying out new vegan tastes.

Moo-ve over for the Vegans at Easter

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You can’t move for vegan-friendly Easter Eggs these days, if I were to attempt to review them all on here, I’d need an overdraft and a new wardrobe of clothes.

However, after my first blog on Easter eggs, I felt duty-bound to buy and, more importantly, eat more for your benefit.

This time, I went for the Moo Free Cheeky Orange Egg with Buttons (http://moofreechocolates.com/) and, as before, the buttons were in the packaging, not inside the egg as Easter tradition dictates.

However, I’m a big fan of chocolate orange, so I was also disappointed to learn that this does not count as one of my five a day – it’s got orange in it, so why not?

Moo Free have been one of the standard bearers for vegan confectionary for several years. They set the bar high before the supermarkets began to smell the money in veganism. While the choice is very, very welcome, please do check out the full Moo-Free range – I’m a big fan of supporting vegan businesses where possible.

Anyway, time to start on the egg. It tastes like chocolate with orange in it.

Is that enough, or do you want more? OK, well, the orange is actually infused into the chocolate through orange crystals, so as well as a subtle burst of sweet orange, you also get a satisfying crunch – lovely. I think “cheeky” is the right word, as the chocolate has a light texture and taste and a substantial sugar-hit, but the orange is not over-powering at all. It’s a nice understated addition to the taste that renders the egg very moorish.

While the buttons are small, and there aren’t a huge number of them, they are a nice, rich, chocolatey after treat – they don’t have the orange crystals, but this adds a nice balance to the whole package in my view.

It’s nice to have a milk chocolate alternative which is so tasty and the packaging and sweetness are both very child-friendly.

But while we’re on chocolate treats, I’m going to throw in something for the adults – the Vego Bar.

If you’re vegan and not familiar with these, where have you been? These beasts are available all year round, but Easter gives you a good excuse (should you need one) to tuck into a Vego.

They are thick hunks of chocolate filled with yummy hazelnuts. The nuts add bite and flavour, but, really, the chocolate chunks are so thick and creamy, they are an utter delight full-stop. Most vegan fairs, online vegan shops and many independent health food shops stock them. Go try.

 

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Vegan fondant delights

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Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles

It’s brilliant how many new vegan products are gracing the shelves of supermarkets across the UK.

With Easter fast approaching, I have already seen a mass of vegan-friendly Easter eggs screaming “eat me” as I walk down the aisles in search of naughty Saturday night treats.

Seeing the new to me Tesco “Finest” free-from truffles when I only went in for Almond milk made this vegan’s heart skip several beats. I don’t mind admitting, I’m a secret chocoholic. Not so secret now eh?

These chocolates are perfect for those with a sweet tooth. You certainly get a strong sugar hit from them and they are very moreish. I can certainly see why people say you can become addicted to chocolate or sugar, eating one chocolate at a time really isn’t an option here – but do let me know if you have the willpower to pull that off!

The fondant centre is actually quite thick and carries an additional, albeit lighter chocolate hit. It certainly can’t be described as unpleasant.

The base is firmer than the rest of the chocolate, but is by no means hard. This gives the sweet a little more bite, something else I like very much.

Something else I like very much is tea. I’m a huge advocate for enjoying a cuppa and chocolates together and these offerings from Tesco do compliment a good cup of tea very well.

The obvious comparison is Choices Caramel Chocolate. Choices have long been a favourite of mine and I can devour a box within half an hour.

Obviously, the Tesco chocolates are fondant truffles and not caramel chocolates, but the idea is the same, if not the centres. I guess there’s enough of a difference to buy a box each – but the Tesco fondants are less expensive.

A box of Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles costs £2 for 156g, whereas Choices Caramel Chocolates are £3.60 for 125g. A big difference then? Yes, but Choices still have the edge taste-wise – for me at least anyway, however, the Tesco chocolates are very nice and are certainly more than an adequate replacement at a lower cost.

I posted a photo of the Tesco chocolates in the Vegan Friends UK Facebook group and the comments were 100% positive, so it’s clear I’m not alone in being a big fan.

You can buy them online from http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=293818980

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Screenshot of people reacting to a photo of the Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles in Facebook group Vegan Friends UK

Nuts about vegan desserts

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A review of two coconut-based vegan desserts.

I’m a huge fan of Koko’s dairy-free coconut milk. It is my vegan milk of choice, therefore when I spotted coconut desserts waving at me from the supermarket shelf I just had to give them a try.

Somebody had actually recommended the Coconut Collaborative dessert in a Facebook share of a previous blog, so it’d be rude not to give that a try too.

Koko’s Dairy-free Strawberry Dessert weighs in at £1.25 for two 125g pots.

It’s quite creamy, but the coconut hit is so slight that it’s almost non-existent. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on where you stand on coconut taste-wise. My guess is that if you don’t like it, you probably wouldn’t be buying a coconut-based dessert. I could be wrong. And, to be fair, you don’t need to like coconut to like this offering – and, alternatively, you won’t necessarily like it if you do like coconut.

To me, the whole product doesn’t have a distinctive enough taste to wow me either way. It’s light, fairly sweet (it does contain sugar) and there are a few small pieces of strawberry to brighten things up a little.

I didn’t hate it – but I didn’t love it either. It works well as a more interesting cream-alternative poured over something rather than a stand-alone dessert in my view. Worth checking out if you’re a vegan (or dairy-free) looking for an alternative to the many soya-based desserts on the market.

 

I did, however, love The Coconut Collaborative Blueberry Yoghurt Alternative. A more luxurious offering than the Koko dessert, it will cost you around £1.50 for a 120gm pot. I think it’s worth it.

You can smell and taste the coconut in this one.

It’s creamy too, and, it contains a good helping of fruit. The blueberries add a nice colour to brighten up the dessert too.

Like the Koko offering, it’s soya-free, but this one only contains natural sugars too – that’s probably why the coconut taste is more prominent, this dessert does not have the sweetness hit like its competitor. I, personally, like that.

Not only that, but the blueberries add a slight sharpness to the taste party too.

I find strong coconut flavours a little chalky, but we don’t quite stray into that category here.

Coconut fiends will adore this one.

Veganism in Veganuary and beyond!

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I love the Idea of Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/) – asking that people should go vegan for the month of January.

Many people who try it don’t go back to a meat-based diet and, with this in mind, I ask what better New Year resolution than trying Veganuary? After all, veganism is better for the animals, the environment and your own health.

I decided to ask some relatively new vegans about their experiences of converting to veganism – some even came to it through Veganuary.

I hope the answers will help other prospective vegans and show new vegans how easy it is to choose a compassionate diet. It may even help some new vegans over the issues those making the change may face.

Those questioned are all members of the Facebook group Vegan Friends UK – there is so much support for new vegans on Facebook and other social media sites.

My participants are:

Scott McKie, aged  21, from Glasgow

Karen Clarke, aged 51, from , Dorset

Lee Cash aged 44, from Brockley, South East London

Katey, aged 22, from Norfolk (now living in London)

Christina. aged 31, from near Preston

Nikki, aged, 44, from Gloucestershire

Rebecca Bamsey, aged 24, from Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales.

What made you turn vegan?

Scott: “I started listening to punk rock when I was like 13/14 years old and started identifying with “punk” subculture etc, and through that became aware of political, social, environmental etc issues. After a while of supporting animal rights and things of that nature I found it harder and harder to justify eating meat to myself. I tried going vegetarian for a month to see how I found it, went back to eating meat, then decided I’d try going vegan for a month around a year after my last experiment. I thought it would suck changing from my normal, omnivore diet to a strictly vegan diet, so I went vegetarian again for two months running up to my vegan month. Although I then ate dairy and eggs after my vegan trial month the next year (in the month where I would traditionally challenge myself) I decided I would commit to being completely vegan with the aims of it being for good this time. Nearly one year on and there are zero signs of me going back to animal products. A much longer and more drawn out process than I’d have liked but going from being someone who consumed so many animal products, I think the gradual shift over the years has made it so much easier for me to maintain a vegan lifestyle now. I feel better about myself knowing I’m lessening my contribution to the destruction of the environment and to the suffering of non-human animals.”

Karen: “My husband and son are vegans and had been nagging me to make the jump from vegetarianism. I agreed to do it for a month and see how I felt.”

Lee: “I watched Cowspiracy.”

Kayey: “I went vegan in the house and still ate omni when going out for dinner for about four months before Veganuary because I watched conspiracy and I studied environmentally sensitive design at university and they pointed out how bad the animal agriculture industry is and I learnt the science behind our actions against the planet and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand knowing I was contributing towards the deterioration of our planet.”

Christina: “I was vegetarian since birth. Then I turned vegan after seeing baby goats taken away instantly from there mums and being fed by bottles stuck on to a wall on Countryfile. The more I looked into it the more I was disgusted by the whole dairy and egg industry.”

Nikki: “Animal welfare, having my buried head removed from the sand after 36 years strict vegetarian.”

Rebecca: “I was already a vegetarian and had put on a bit of weight during freshers in uni so I thought it was a good way to drop the pounds if I were to do it for a month. During this month, I began researching veganism and uncovered the issues with the dairy industry. My moral compass wouldn’t allow me to live with the hypocrisy of being a veggie but turning a blind eye to these issues so the ‘diet’ became a lifestyle change.”

 

What made you try Veganuary? Did you think you would still be vegan after Veganuary?

Katey: “I tried Veganuary because my friend Sophie is a vegan activist and through exposure to her views and information I decided to give it a go. I knew afterwards that I would stay vegan because I got involved in the vegan community and I used to suffer from an eating disorder and to my surprise, it changed my entire perspective and relationship towards food. It saved my life.”

Christina: “I didn’t do Veganuary, but Viva had something similar where they sent you emails every day for a month with a day’s food menu. I knew I would continue to be vegan after the 30-day period.”

Rebecca: “I tried Veganuary the previous year to becoming a vegan after seeing a Facebook add, I think it was more curiosity and challenge than actually recognising the ethics of it. ‘Did I think I would still be vegan after Veganuary?’ Not really, I guess I thought it was too ‘extreme’ or quite impossible to sustain in the long term.”

 

Have you noticed any physical/mental changes since you became vegan?

Scott: “Since turning vegan I’m far slimmer/leaner and (predominantly since dropping meat from my diet) my general immune system seems to have improved, and I regularly feel less sluggish and groggy.
Karen: “I have felt much more mentally alert, less fatigued and my asthma has improved. I’ve also lost weight without trying and still eating what I fancy.”

Katey: “Yes. Like I stated previously, it saved me from self-destruction. I feel ten times better. I also suffer from celiac disease and damages to my stomach and bowel from all the abuse I did to it during the dark times of my ED – veganism has made it so much better. I’m more awake, I feel better in myself. My hair has actually started to grow back from when it fell out when my eating as bad. It’s just amazing!”

Christina: “Physical differences much more energy and psoriasis cleared up. Mental differences I was quite sensitive beforehand when it came to animals but much more now and I seem to be much more aware of the suffering in the world (can be quite depressing) it has also helped me with mental issues with food as I no longer feel guilty whilst eating. I struggled at first until I found out everything and since then there’s no going back.”

Nikki: “Yes, I dislike people more. I feel healthier, although I did gain weight at first.”

Rebecca: “I’m not the most observant of my own health. However, I do get a lot less sick (I used to get colds and flues quite regular), I have lost weight and I get a lot less lethargic.”

 

Has there been any times when you’ve found it particularly difficult to stick to veganism?

Scott: “Veganism for my ‘trial month’ was pretty difficult, but since going completely vegan I have had very few difficulties apart from odd cravings here or there. Strangely I did get meat-anxiety dreams for a little while where I’d dream I was eating a burger or something like that and then feel really bad once I realised what I was doing but they didn’t last for very long.”

Karen: “The hardest bit for me is giving up cereals as I haven’t got my head round eating cereal with milk alternatives yet. Apart from that I have found it much easier than I thought. I am a master at seeking out vegan alternatives and I make food from scratch most of the time.”

Lee: “Early on in my vegan journey I had a get together with friend that was organised at a steak house. I got drunk and ended up eating some steak and was ill the next morning. That was the only time I ever struggled. Now I find the thought of eating animal flesh repulsive.”

Katey: “Yes, but not due to veganism itself. Just when I go out for dinner with my friends or try to get food on the go. As I’m gluten-free too it makes it extremely difficult to find anywhere that provides food to those dietary requirements however I’ve gotten used to it now and just call ahead.”

Rebecca: “The hardest is when I’m in a rush looking for food on the go, I definitely should have learnt my lesson to prepare lush by now!”

 

Were you surprised by the range of vegan options available?

Scott: “Part of me is surprised by the amount of vegan options there are but Glasgow is very good for vegans. My more rural hometown of Dumfries in southwest Scotland is a little tougher but still very manageable.”

Lee: “Yes. Especially the fact that vegan bacon is so great!”

Katey: “I was surprised by the development of vegan options in supermarkets – especially over the past 12 months. Makes life a lot easier! Although, I’ve always shopped in the free-from section so I’ve known about a lot of the vegan options for a while.”

Christina: “The vegan options have grown massively in just the 2 years I have been vegan. It’s amazing now.”

Nikki: “Yes, veganism is the future, and it’s showing out there in the shops/restaurants.”

Rebecca: “Yes, definitely! It’s about knowing what things are ‘accidently vegan’ that makes life so much easier (mmm Oreos and bacon rashers).”

 

How “vegan friendly” is the area in which you live?

Karen: “Our area is good for vegan food, a number of restaurants and shops plus two vegan fish and chip shops and lots of takeaways with excellent options and vegan menus.”
Lee: “Very.”

Katey: “In London, pretty much everywhere is vegan-friendly. but back in Norfolk not so much. However, I am seeing a massive increase in vegetarian cafes and restaurants!”

Christina: “I still struggle eating out if with friends and family as not everyone wants to eat at a veggie/vegan places. But just have chips or salad. There’s not many restaurants close by, but plenty in bigger cities near me and can get most of what I need from a supermarket and a health food shop. If not, one can always order things online.”

Nikki: “Pretty good.”

Rebecca: “There is a lovely vegetarian whole foods shop, just a few houses away from where I live with all the vegan treats and essentials I could ever wish for!”

 

How did your friends and family react to your change in diet?

Scott: “A lot of my friends and family at first didn’t understand or didn’t think I’d stick with it, and were probably quite shocked that I have given how much I used to enjoy meat, but I think they all more or less get it now.”

Karen: “Most of my family are vegan or veggie and as we have all been veggie for years the omnis are used to it. Did get some non-vegan presents like biscuits etc. But I genuinely think they didn’t realise. I’m quite a strong character so not many people would be brave enough to say to my face anything negative.”

Lee: “Mine have been mostly supportive.”

Katey: “Some of my family members are farmers so they thought I was being silly but none of them were surprised. I was vegetarian for four years when I was at secondary school and then stopped because my ED got bad and the doctors forced me to eat meat to build up my calorie intake. However, my mum and brother have been incredibly supportive. They’d never be vegan but they always cater for me and accept my decision completely.”

Christina: “Friends and family thought it was a phase and used to try and tempt me to eat cheese again, but now they know I’m serious everyone is very supportive of me I did split up with a long-term boyfriend over it though, as he was extremely unsupportive and hated that I had gone vegan.”

Nikki: “Totally disrespectfully, unhelpful, insulting comments.”

Rebecca: “I had a varied reaction! My dad loves it and I think he boasts about me somewhat. My mother rolled her eyes and chuckled at me, she can’t quite understand it, I don’t think, but is still supportive. My partner didn’t react at all really. He engages in philosophic debate with me quite regularly, but he is now giving up beef and milk so I think he might agree somewhat.”

 

From a nutritional standpoint, do you watch what you eat?

Scott: “I don’t particularly watch what I eat in terms of health or nutrition, I’ve never been overly health conscious about my diet at all.”

Karen: “I make sure everyone eats a balanced diet which consists of tons of fruit and veg, juice and smoothies. Plus, we take B12 as a supplement. I believe in gentle conversion and do it through suggestion and humour.”

Lee: “Not particularly but I plan to in 2017.”

Katey: “Yes I do. I’ve learnt so much about nutrition and where to get nutrition from. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say “where do you get your protein from?” Well if you educate yourself you’ll find out where!”

Christina: “I do watch what I eat (sometimes better than others) but also take supplements to ensure I get what I need.”

Nikki: “I try to.”

Rebecca: “Not at all! My ethos is- If it’s vegan, I’ll eat it. Although I do eat a lot of junk food I don’t feel as though I’m lacking any nutrients, not that I am a professional, but I’m sure I’d notice if I was.”

 

Have you converted anyone else to veganism/asked anybody to try Veganuary?

Scott: “My girlfriend and I turned vegan together and have converted a few people to vegetarianism, as well as got more people considering veganism and approaching vegan dishes and lifestyle with a more open mind.”

Karen: “I have had a lot of genuine interest and I’m hopeful……..will encourage Veganuary too.

Lee: “Yes. My fiancée also went vegan shortly after I did.”

Katey: “I’ve managed to convert about four people so far, and got a lot of people to reduce their meat intake. My best friend is now a full vegan and is as much of an activist as I! It’s great!”

Christina: “I’ve planted the seed in a few people but none have gone fully vegan (one is now veggie) and won’t watch documentaries as they are happy being ignorant (their words) I have converted at least five people to drink plant milks instead and made people more aware of where food comes from and what’s it in it (like gelatin, lanolin, cochineal).”

Nikki: “Converted yes, although I don’t think they continued after we split up.”

Rebecca: “I converted a friend over the summer, although I’m not sure if he still is vegan. I shared a Veganuary post and stated if people wish for advice then to drop me a message. So far, I have had two people message me about it and also my partner is making a step in the right direction cutting out beef and milk (all about small steps, right?).”

A rough history of veganism

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The rise of veganism over the past decade has be cataclysmic. It seemingly came from nowhere and its growing popularity almost mirrors the rise of the internet.

Change seems to happen so much more quickly in the 21st century, but much of that is down to perception as technological advances overshadow the changes in society itself.  However, the increasingly availability of vegan products and vegan options on restaurant menus cannot be underestimated.

 

The word “vegan” itself was coined in 1944 by British man Donald Watson. He is said to have created the word to describe vegetarians who also reject dairy products and eggs – something he felt very strongly about. Tuberculosis had been found in 40 per cent of the UK’s dairy cattle the previous year and Watson used this to his advantage, claiming that vegans are protected from tainted food. The modern parallel with bovine TB and the badger cull cannot be ignored here.  It proves that problems with industrial farming are by no means a new issue, and things have got worse rather than better in that respect.

Watson’s newsletter, The Vegan News, was printed and distributed in November 1944 and he formed the Vegan Society. The Vegan Society is still going strong today, as it their newsletter. Watson died in 2005, aged 95.

 

Several years before the creation of the word, one of London’s best known vegetarian restaurants had been named The Vega. Opened it 1934, it was the brainchild of Walter and Jenny Fleiss. The couple had a restaurant under the same name in Cologne, but had fled Germany when it became apparent that Walter was on a Gestapo list.

 

The first animal product-free cookbook was named Kitchen Philosophy and was published in 1949 by William Horsell, also from London, UK. The recipes excluded butter and eggs, so it is considered the first vegan cookbook – published many years before the word even existed.

 

Of course, discussions over the rights and wrongs of using any animal products had been raging long before “vegan” came into being as a word.

Vegetarianism was first mentioned by philosopher Pythagoras (his mathematics theories provoking groans in school children everywhere) around 500 BCE (before the common era). Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism have long rejected meat, considering it wrong to inflict pain on other animals. Also, the Ephra Cloister, a strict religious sect formed in Pennsylvania in 1732 advocated vegetarianism and celibacy.

The first Vegetarian Society was formed in England in 1847, three years later, the American version came into being.

The point I’m making is that veganism and vegetarianism aren’t new concepts, they are not trends that suddenly appeared with the birth of the internet, they are compassionate theories that have developed over time – and, incidentally, no, Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, that’s a myth that has also developed over time.

When I first became vegetarian, there was a limited number of processed foods available, soya was the only plant milk and vegan cheese was unheard of, so in that respect, things have changed very quickly. Market forces have certainly given us a huge range of vegan products over the past few years, and social media means the word is definitely out. Things are looking very bright indeed for the future of veganism.

 

The Great Gary Review

Veganism is big business on social media.

Stories connected to vegans automatically get multiple shares and provoke debate on news posts, therefore, the Gary/Vegan Cheese debate shouldn’t really come as any surprise. It certainly hasn’t done Sainsbury’s any harm. You couldn’t buy this much advertising! Several national news outlets even picked up on the debate and it went viral quicker than many cat videos.

If you missed it, basically, Sainsbury’s has released a number of own-brand vegan cheeses – something which got the vegan community instantly excited – it doesn’t take much with us lot! Anyway, one less than vegan social media user became upset over the term “cheese” when it comes to dairy-free products and posted a long rant to this effect.  She ended with “call it Gary or something”. So vegans did. Instantly, and hilariously, the ranter’s joke backfired and sent the products’ new moniker viral. I’m sure non-vegan Garys are over the moon.

It all proves two things: Vegans do have a sense of humour and new vegan products sell themselves in the world of social media.

Personally, I don’t care what you call it. I see it as rather petty to get offended over what a product is named. In fact, Sainsbury’s haven’t actually labelled them “vegan cheese” on the packaging – instead they are presumptuously called “Deliciously Free-From…” then Cheddar Style etc.

 

Much of the publicity surrounding the release centred on the fact that the cheeses are coconut-based. The cheeses actually contain between 22 per cent and 24 per cent coconut oil and they are not soya-free. So if you don’t want soya, you’re better off with Violife or Vegusto. Personally, it doesn’t bother me and claims soya gives men boobs and the such-like are pretty nonsensical – it is certainly no quick fix for sex-change patients. Also, many meat products also contain soya and many animals bred for meat are fed on the stuff.

 

I decided to try the new products, including a cheese spread and new lasagne, so I could share my thoughts with you lovely people.

The lasagne was something I was very excited about, but it really isn’t as good as some of the home-made offerings I’ve tried. It is, however, vegetable and not soya mince-based. It also says it “serves one”, which in supermarket terms, means serves one with chips, a salad, garlic bread and pudding!

I avoided going down the lazy microwave route and cooked it properly. But it still stuck to the bottom. Once out of the plastic dish, It was still a little watery and doesn’t have any real spice kick. But there is a fair amount of tasty veg and the pasta tasted nice and creamy. I’d have it again – probably with lots of chips.

 

The Garlic and Herb Soft Cheese is a lovely breakfast treat on toast. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the garlic, it has a real kick and a nice, light texture. It’s delicious in fact. And, as with the cheeses themselves, there is no underlying coconut taste or, indeed, after-taste. Plus, it’s actually softer and more spreadable than many similar products on the market.

 

Now let’s look at the cheeses themselves. I’ll start with the

 

. This is a white cheese with a creamy taste and soft texture. It has a medium-strength hit and would work very well in a salad. I can’t actually remember what “real” cheese tastes like, so I have to judge the products on their own merits.

The Cheddar Style is probably the most traditional alternative, and I would say it has a cheesy taste given what I’ve said above. It’s the kind of vegan cheese I would have in a sandwich with pickles.

 

I approached the Wensleydale Style with Cranberries with some trepidation, as I, generally, don’t like sweet and savoury mixed. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s certainly colourful – it looks like ice cream, but the sweet aftertaste isn’t unpleasant and it’s another creamy one. This is something that would work well on crackers.

 

Finally, comes the best – Cheddar Style with Caramelised Onion. This is the one that made angels dance around my mouth and spread glitter over my tongue! The powerful onion taste is to die for, making this one that would rule over the cracker kingdom.

 

At £2.25 each for a 200g pack, they are cheaper than many other vegan cheeses and they come in re-sealable packaging – which is always a bonus. All in all, they are certainly a hit with me.